The Anatomy of Serifs
The graphics below display the different styles of serifs. They also show the anatomy of an individual serif. As we know, in general, sans-serif typefaces are better suited for titles and headings. Serif typefaces are more readable as body copy, set somewhere around 9 to 11 points.
By now, we should know the difference between a sans-serif and a serif typeface. Stated very generally, sans-serif typefaces should be used for titles and headings. Serif typefaces are used for body copy.
Serifs come in many shapes. They have varying thicknesses and curviness. A really square serif is called a slab serif. A more fluid, curvy serif has brackets and may be cupped.
There are even different types of serifs. The terms refer to specific shapes of serifs. The spur looks like just that—a spur on a plant or on a cowboy boot. The beak is the downward-facing serif at the end of a stroke.
Sometimes serif shoot off in two directions at the terminal, sometimes only in one direction. In the first case, they’re considered bilateral serifs, in the other, they’re unilateral. On serif typefaces, the unilateral serif can also be called an acute serif.
A typeface like Bodoni is in the Modern category, which gives it its thin serifs. They have no brackets. This category of type is not ideal for setting as body copy. The serifs end up so small that they don’t print clearly. They make the text noisy.